04 Sep Australian mining sector emerges as the most resilient in the world
COVID-19 has impacted mining operations around the world but a recent report has shown that Australia has been the least disrupted during the global pandemic.
The findings come from a McKinsey & Company survey of more than 60 senior executives, mine managers and owners in the MineLens Industry Survey. While more than 75 per cent of respondents agreed that COVID-19 ‘has had a significant impact on mining operations’, it found that disruption in Australia was considered moderate compared to other major mining countries including Brazil, Canada, Chile, South Africa, and the United States.
Brazil was hit hard by a court order to close Vale SA’s Conceicao, Caue and Periquito pits at its Itabira complex in Minas Gerais because of a COVID-19 outbreak in June, while the Brumadinho dam disaster – which saw a major failure at the tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine – had left that country reeling since January.
Mine sites around the world have been declared COVID-19 hotspots, including in Canada and the United States with around 4000 workers across 18 countries testing positive at mine sites. Production in South Africa is down by almost 30 per cent with Minerals Council South Africa members called upon to make donations for vital oxygen and oxygen-related products. And jobs in the Chilean mining industry have plummeted to a seven-year low, with a 21 per cent drop between May and July – equating to around 185,000 workers.
Gold and iron ore production at the heart of Australia’s stability
Gold production is booming in Australia and our country remains the second-largest gold producer in the world behind only China.
A record 328 tonnes of gold production in the 2019-2020 financial year was underlined by a massive 85-tonne output in the June 2020 quarter – up 10 per cent on the March quarter.
Gold mining consultant Surbiton Associates released these figures in their latest report and director Dr Sandra Close said that global uncertainty and unrest had sparked a boom in the demand for gold worldwide.
“I cannot recall so much interest in gold since the modern boom began almost 40 years ago,” she said.
Iron ore also continues to be a strong cornerstone of our stability, with our export volumes increasing by more than 200 per cent over the last decade and iron ore became the first Australian commodity to crack $100 billion in annual export value according to the Australian Government’s latest Resources Energy Quarterly report.
While Australia has remained resilient to date, new challenges lie just ahead
Exports to China make up 80 per cent of our iron ore exports but simmering tensions between China and the Australian Government could see iron ore become the next commodity to be embroiled in the ongoing trade war.
Prominent Australian iron ore holdings businessman Clive Palmer wants to call China’s bluff and impose tariffs on iron ore exports, stating that “the Chinese economy would collapse” without access to our iron ore.
The MineLens survey also forecasts drops in Australian mining production, stating that production has already dropped by 42 per cent and that there has been a planned reduction of 30 per cent. It also revealed that operational costs have increased by 16 per cent and that half of all respondents have decreased their budgets.
So there will need to be changes to ensure Australia’s mining sector remains resilient.
Australian mining will need to innovate to ensure growth in the coming years instead of decline
COVID-19 disruptions, border closures and ensuring the health and safety of all FIFO and on-site mining workers are going to remain challenges for the remainder of 2020 and likely well into 2021.
Which means that innovation will need to be at the forefront of thinking and spending to allow operations to continue and to push for growth over the current financial year.
Centres like the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub have been established to nurture and accelerate new innovations and technologies for the extraction of minerals, environmental impact and maximum profitability.
Dr Luke Keeney has been a key driver of the Hub’s development and said it would help ensure Australia remains at the forefront of resilience.
“It will boost the industry and regions economic prosperity, as well as its environmental sustainability. This work is essential in ensuring Australia retains its credentials and remains competitive as a world leader in the production of minerals and associated technology,” he said.
How Fly2Work can streamline your travel and accommodation bookings for your workforce
Automation is a key innovation that will be important for all mining operations moving forward and that includes the booking process for your FIFO workforce in terms of their air transport, ground transport and site or off-site accommodation.
Are you still manually managing your mobile and travelling workforces? Fly2Work allows you to kick time-consuming and inefficient paper processes like spreadsheets and fully automate the travel and accommodation components of your mining operations.
Fly2Work provides a unified platform for all accommodation and travel requirements, delivering workers a single itinerary while also giving management complete visibility and monitor of all staff movement.
This is especially important in the current climate where border closures and reduced flights are making FIFO booking processes even more challenging than ever before.